Questions From Readers
What did the apostle Paul mean when he said: “Through law I died toward law”?—Gal. 2:19.
Paul wrote: “Through law I died toward law, so that I might become alive toward God.”—Gal. 2:19.
What Paul wrote was in line with a central point that he was making to the congregations in the Roman province of Galatia. Some Christians there were being influenced by false teachers. Such men were teaching that to gain salvation one had to observe requirements of the Mosaic Law, particularly circumcision. But Paul knew that God no longer required believers to be circumcised. With powerful reasoning, he refuted the false teachings and strengthened the brothers’ faith in the ransom sacrifice of Jesus Christ.—Gal. 2:4; 5:2.
The Bible says clearly that once a person dies, he is not conscious of or affected by anything around him. (Eccl. 9:5) When Paul said: “I died toward law,” he meant that the Mosaic Law no longer had any hold on him. Rather, Paul was sure that by his faith in the ransom sacrifice, he had “become alive toward God.”
That change in Paul’s situation came about “through law.” How so? He had just explained that “a man is declared righteous, not by works of law, but only through faith in Jesus Christ.” (Gal. 2:16) Granted, the Law had served an important function. Paul explained to the Galatians: “It was added to make transgressions manifest, until the offspring should arrive to whom the promise had been made.” (Gal. 3:19) Yes, the Law made it obvious that imperfect, sinful humans could not keep the Law perfectly and that they needed a final, perfect sacrifice. So the Law led people to “the offspring,” the Christ. By exercising faith in Jesus Christ, one could be declared righteous by God. (Gal. 3:24) Paul came to that point because through the Law he had come to accept and put faith in Jesus. Paul thereupon “died toward law” and became “alive toward God.” The Law no longer had power over him, but God did.
Paul expressed a similar thought in his letter to the Romans. “My brothers, you also were made dead to the Law through the body of the Christ . . . We have been released from the Law, because we have died to that which restrained us.” (Rom. 7:4, 6) This scripture as well as Galatians 2:19 reveals that Paul was not speaking about dying as a condemned sinner under the Law. Rather, he was pointedly speaking about being liberated. The Law no longer had any hold on him and others like him. They were set free by faith in Christ’s ransom.